Sexiness after the spouse enters the picture is an exercise relegated to the bedroom. For single women and men, sexiness is about attracting people. It is about lusty sex or sexy love; about the vroom of a race car or motorbike that will make her head turn and stare at you as you ride into the dust. It is about wearing killer heels guaranteed to make his heart skip a beat as you stride through the construction zone. It is about seduction, chocolate, aroma oil massages, whipped cream, hot tubs, flowers, mood music and champagne.
It is, above all, about that frisson of desire.
After marriage, the whole equation changes. Sexiness becomes muted. Those navel-baring miniskirts that seemed perfect for the nightclub when you were 20 somehow appear pathetic and desperate when you wear them post 40. Those fishnet stockings that were perfect for your office when you were a rookie, now appear gaudy when you wear them as the boss.
Body basics: You may find John Abraham hot, but may not admire him or seek his advice.
It isn’t just about clothes, though. It is also about morphing equations with the whole notion of sexiness. You want to appear attractive but also want to be perceived as dignified. You want to appear desirable but only to a bandwidth of people that keeps getting narrower with every passing year. You don’t seek catcalls from hunks or come-hither looks from interns. You want—oh, I don’t know—class, maybe? You may enjoy being checked out, but you want their respect and admiration. Sexiness and admiration are mutually exclusive. You may admire Sunita Narain or Aruna Roy but that doesn’t mean you find them sexy. Is Sonia Gandhi sexy? Hard to say. Is Rahul Gandhi sexy? A large faction of the female population would probably say “yes”. On the flip side, you don’t necessarily admire the people you find sexy. You may think John Abraham or Sonam Kapoor are hot but you don’t necessarily seek their advice. A lot of men seem to find married women hot, which I chalk down to the whole “covet thy neighbour’s wife” syndrome. Would you still find Malaika Arora Khan hot if she were available?
Married women are not above flirtation either.
Most married women still enjoy checking out or being checked out by other men, but not in the overt obvious way of a 20-year-old. All of which brings me to my grand theory of relativity with respect to the whole sexy thing: Sexiness after marriage is about lingerie.
When I fight with my husband, I go out and buy lingerie. Not me in the particular, but me as epitomizing the female gender. Large and very successful retail businesses are built around this premise. Whether it is an Eres bra; a corset, thong and basque from Agent Provocateur; a lacy chemise from La Perla; or Victoria’s Secret Miracle bra; lingerie is where human sexiness ends up being expressed after marriage—in the privacy of your bedroom, with your beloved.
The problem with this is that lingerie imposes a false constraint on sexiness. If you look at gorgeous lingerie—say a Voyeur frame bra (need I explain more?) or a wrap teddy from Kiki de Montparnasse—you see that it attempts sexiness using very boring and standard paradigms. You may pay $400 (around Rs18,240) but you end up with the usual black lace, plunging neckline, and transparent satin parameters that most lingerie conforms to. And sexiness, as anyone who has attempted it during college will tell you, is not only about see-through clothes. It is about happy accidents: the flyaway sari as displayed in countless Indian movies; Marilyn Monroe’s ballooning white dress as seen in that iconic photograph. Chikan kurtis can be sexy. A halter-neck blouse can make even cricket seem sexy, as Mandira Bedi has proved. A traditional Kanjeevaram sari can be incredibly sexy as Sridevi has shown in her earlier Tamil movies. Sexiness, as countless Urdu couplets will tell you, is not even about revealing body parts. It can just be about the sway of hips, the curve of a neck or about cascading black hair. Sexiness, in the end, is a mind game, and by taking it into the bedroom through the use of lingerie, we are limiting its potential.
So what’s a married person to do? Say, you are happily married, is sexiness a lost art? Say you don’t want to have an affair but you want to appear attractive to men, are you allowed to be sexy? What is sexy after marriage? To answer this question, I approached Pinky.
Pinky and her friends stand opposite Manipal Center in Bangalore. You can only see them after 9pm and they are easily spotted by their bright lipstick, rhinestone-laden blouses, short skirts and high heels. I got talking to them while waiting for my ride. It was Friday night; we were all a little loud. We got talking. Fifteen minutes later, we were discussing the whole “sexy” thing.
What is sexy, I asked. “Sexy maane kya?”
They laughed and let loose a flood of answers, none of which are printable in this newspaper. “You want sexy?” challenged one in the end. “Sexy is a formula. Aisa (like this)….” She broke off and did a fantastic display of exactly what she was talking about: batting eyelashes, licking lips, swaying hip and thrust-up bosom. It was formulaic but it was bloody good. Then again, she was a pro.
Shoba Narayan didn’t teach Pinky anything about sexiness that Friday night. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org